How to Heal from an Unhappy Childhood

“To forget and to repress would be a good solution if there were no more to it than that. But repressed pain blocks emotional life and leads to physical symptoms. And the worst thing is that, although the feelings of the abused child have been silenced at the point of origin, that is, in the presence of those who caused the pain, they find their voice when the battered child has children of his own.”
― Alice Miller, Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries

Many children grow-up in unhappy families.  Perhaps the parents are abusive or they’re simply stressed. Maybe they’re absent, or too busy to devote sufficient time to ensuring their children are paid attention to, feel loved, and appreciated.

Some unhappy, angry, or abusive parents teach their children to repress their feelings, to smile and appear happy, when they’re all suffering deeply. Families  will “keep up appearances” and pretend everything’s normal on the surface, when behind the scenes, they’re emotionally disturbed or highly dysfunctional. Dysfunction can be a family’s dark secret and children from these families learn to ignore, repress, or become blind to their own feelings.

Children who felt hurt, neglected, or unloved will as adults feel that something’s very wrong with them. Children often blame themselves for their parents’ misery.  When a child’s efforts fail to generate praise, encouragement, or bring a smile to a parent’s face, the child can feel guilty and think, “Nothing I do is good enough.” That guilt can turn to shame when they feel, “I’m not good enough.” As adults, they’ll work overtime to please and make others happy, in order to “be good enough.”  Meanwhile, they pay little attention to their own needs and desires.  Frequently, they’ll seek happiness externally, outside of themselves, an impossible quest because love, peace, and happiness come from within.

Children who’ve never received love might find it difficult to feel love as adults.  They seek loving partners but may find themselves repeating the patterns of unhappiness in their relationships.  They tend to attract people who are just like their parents and re-create situations similar to the environment they grew-up in.  They become chameleons who work extra-hard to fit themselves into a lover’s reality. Later, when they’re still feeling miserable, empty, sad, hurt, or lonely, they may realize too late that their girl or boyfriend, lover or spouse’s reality wasn’t what they’d hoped for.

People who were abused as children might subconsciously accept abuse as normal.  Later in life, they can become abusers themselves, or victims.  If they grew up in an angry home, they’ll attract an angry spouse, or attract a spouse they can be angry at.  If they grew up in a home where the parents were absent or distant, they might attract an absent or distant lover, and experience a life of unrequited love.

The patterns learned in childhood develop as subconscious programming. Some adults don’t recognize that they suffered some form of abuse as children.  They assume that every home was filled with tension, fear and misery.  However, as adults, when they can’t get what they want from their lover or spouse, they might start to wonder, “Why is he or she always so unhappy, judgemental, unkind, repressive, abusive, distant, or absent?”  When we haven’t recognized and healed our own self-limiting or destructive patterns and behaviours, walking into a relationship can be like walking into a nightmarish past.

Good News

Your subconscious mind can be healed.  To begin, here are a few suggestions:

#1        Forgive your parents

When you can’t forgive someone, it means you’re still holding on to them.  When you forgive someone, you’re actually letting go and liberating yourself.  Adversity is our greatest teacher.  When you rise above the hardships created by your parents, and come from a place of love and peace, they’ve been your greatest teachers.  For that gift of learning, you might even thank them. When you forgive your parents, you free yourself of suffering.  “Let go and let God.”

Dysfunction is multi-generational.  Scientists have shown that heightened emotions your grandparents experienced still exist in your DNA.  If you grew-up in an unhappy home, your parents likely grew up in an unhappy home, and their parents before them. As a result, poor behaviour has been conditioned into everyone. It’s ingrained in their subconscious so they’re not conscious or aware that anything’s wrong.  Forgive your parents and grandparents, and take responsibility for breaking the pattern.  Adopt an attitude that, “I’m me.  I am myself, and I’m no longer like my parents and grandparents.”

#2        Find ways to wake-up

Recognize something’s wrong, take a closer look, and take action.  Analyze your parents’ negative behaviour then check to see if you’re repeating some of their patterns. Take steps to heal emotionally and change.  Do everything in your power to become aware of your subconscious programs.  Once you’re aware, you can catch-yourself before repeating negative or destructive behaviours.  Evaluate your belief systems.  Are they yours, or did they belong to your parents?  Let go of out-dated beliefs and adopt your own.

Dr. Oz commented, “Kids don’t treat themselves like their parents treat them.  Kids treat themselves the way their parents treat themselves.”  We mimic the behaviour of our parents.

In your analysis, ask yourself, did your mother or father accept or ignore harsh criticism, insults, abusive language, or violence? Was either parent domineering or controlling?  Was one parent viewed as being strong and the other considered weak?  Was one or both parents generally unhappy or angry?  Did your family have a deep dark secret?  Did your parents label each other with derogatory language or imply that one parent was somehow “less than” the other?  Did either parent suffer from low self-esteem?  Did your mother or father neglect their own needs by putting others first?  Did they truly listen, or did they tend to ignore one another?  With heightened awareness, you can let go of beliefs and behaviours that you don’t agree with.

#3        Focus on Your Strengths

Reflect on what you consider to be your strengths. How would you describe your parents’ strengths?  Ask friends who knew your parents, in what ways are you similar to your parents, and in what ways are you different? Ask friends, if they were to describe you to someone else, how would they describe you?  What do they view as your greatest strengths? Which of your behaviours do they like most?  Make a list of what works well for you and focus on these.  You might consider the KOLBE Assessment, a powerful way to identify your strengths and innate abilities.  To discover your strengths, what you will and will not do, visit

#4        Feel to Heal

Heightened moments of anger, grief, worry, and fear can be felt physically.  When your stomach knots, your breathing gets shallow, and your muscles become tense, these emotions stay in your body.  If you simply wait for bad feelings to gradually lessen, they haven’t been released.  It’s important to release negative emotions.  There’s a memory in every kink and emotion behind every illness.

The quickest way to heal is to feel.  The next time you feel horrible, ask yourself, what’s causing the upset?  If you dream of bugs, it means something’s bugging you.  Though you may have to dig deep to connect with your emotions, once you do, REALLY FEEL any anger, sadness, or other emotion, in order to release it.  Release emotion through tears, a primordial scream, by a punching a pillow or punching-bag, or by running a marathon.  When you release the emotions around bad memories, you can heal deeply and permanently.

When You Feel Good, Life Gets Better

If you need assistance in releasing negative emotions, hypnosis can be very powerful.  My clients who receive channelled hypnosis, healing and messages tell me their healing experiences are deep, profound, and liberating.

American Heath Magazine Reports:

  • 93 percent recovery with 6 sessions of hypnosis
  • 73 percent recovery with 22 sessions of behaviour therapy
  • 38 percent recovery with 600 sessions of Psychoanalysis

The following is one client’s experience, a few years ago.  (Note: The prices have changed).



  1. Always a pleasure reading your thoughtful posts Elizabeth. I see much of my inner child’s past hurts and healing process in your words and the suggested actions. I found in the beginning 12 Step recovery groups helped me connect with my inner self and spiritual connection. These groups can provide much needed experience, hope and strength to those just starting out on their healing journey and can serve as a stepping stone to deeper spiritual experiences.

    • Elizabeth Rose says:

      Nancy Ouellet,
      Thank you for sharing your experience and helpful advice about 12 Step, …and for writing your wonderful book, “Finding the Stairway to Heaven!”
      In love and gratitude,